5 Quick Ideas for Differentiated Learning in the Classroom
Each class of 25-30, no matter how old they are, hosts students who learn in all sorts of ways. Some need to touch the content, some need to write it out, while others just need to hear what the teacher has to say. It is an overwhelming task for one teacher to teach the content so that every student understands it. This is where differentiated learning comes in handy. With several strategies up your sleeve, you can quickly assess what your students’ learning styles are and then reach them accordingly.
Learning Styles Assessment
Before starting to teach students, it would be beneficial to know what their learning styles are. Students can take a multiple-choice quiz and figure out for themselves—and the teacher—how they learn best. They can use this knowledge as they grow up to help them study and complete assignments and projects. This is a great first step to differentiating learning.
Most teachers use some type of seating arrangement to keep track of students, encourage learning, and sometimes discourage shenanigans. This is a great opportunity to differentiate learning.
Students could be placed near other students who have similar learning styles. Students who like to write notes can compare notes to make sure they wrote down everything they need. Students who prefer auditory learning can talk to others close by. Using this strategy allows like-minded students to teach and encourage one another.
Another seating option is to intermingle students’ seats. This way they can use their own strengths to help each other. A student who needs to hear the content can watch and listen to those close by who are kinesthetic or prefer to talk about the content. A note-taker can write down notes based on these conversations. Either way, getting students to interact with one another in a positive manner is a spectacular way to take some of the burdens off the teacher to do all the teaching.
Regardless of where students sit, they can and should work in groups sometimes during class. Once again, teachers can create groups based on learning styles. Even if students are working in their groups on a daily basis, it is a fantastic way for students to check in with one another on a weekly basis or as a review of content. Kinesthetic students can find a way to learn new vocabulary words or review the day’s lesson.
Teachers can take it a step further by having each group split up further and share what they’ve discussed with others. One group might be made up of several different students with different learning styles. The kinesthetic student can share the hand gesture to remember the vocab word, then the auditory learner can share the mnemonic device they came up with to remember it as well. This helps students teach one another, but more importantly, it confirms their knowledge. Even if on a test or assessment a student forgets something, they might remember something another student said or did to help them recall information. Groups can be such a fun and encouraging way to engage students in differentiated learning.
Once students know how they learn, it creates an awesome opportunity for them to show teachers that they’ve learned the content in their own way. Designing projects can not only reflect and assess content knowledge but do it in a way that each student can successfully communicate with the teacher. For example, in my classroom, we read Romeo and Juliet. At the end of the unit, they are given seven choices for a project. Each project analyzes the text further but in a different way. They can create their own stage combat scene or create a collage about the theme of death. Students can also plan a wedding for Romeo and Juliet or write obituaries for the deceased. The many options in this project assure that each student will find something they enjoy for their project and helps them communicate in a way that best suits each one. It has quickly become one of my favorite projects of the year.
Frequently Asked Questions Handout
Lastly, when teachers assign a new project or assignment, we can all picture the many hands that immediately shoot into the air with a multitude of questions before we even finish describing the assignment. So instead of rolling our eyes, we can prepare the students in advance by giving them a list of frequently asked questions with the answers beforehand. This really eases the minds of students and provides an overview of expectations, but it also can be a reflection for students for future use.
In fact, in my classroom, my students read a book each month for most of the school year. While this is a horrifying thought for most of my students, I created a FAQ handout for them to read before I even explain anything. It includes information about what genre of books they have to read, when books and projects are typically due, and how they will be assessed. Students are overwhelmed at first, but this handout has deterred the immediate raising of hands and eased the panic on their faces. After our first few trips to the library, they realize the expectations and the number of choices they receive, and it truly helps them. This type of differentiation is really just a differentiation on my part of teaching, but it has revolutionized this project for my classroom.
How do you differentiate learning within your classroom? Do you have some killer strategies to share with others? Join the differentiated learning conversation with us on Twitter @Schoology